A Glimpse into the Threatres

MUSINGS ABOUT MUMMERS.

I do not remember any happier night since I was about 16 years old than that I spent with the Washington Square Players. The reading committee, appalled by what I said about them in the January number, hastily picked out the plays which they liked least and gave us a corking good bill.

The opening sketch, “Neighbors,” was not particularly great. There was very little plot. I have a peculiar dislike for clever nothingness. But the second offering, “The Critic’s Comedy,” by Samuel Kaplan, is quite the best and funniest sketch that I can remember; it had a real tang of true comedy, which consists (by definition) in making somebody sexually ridiculous. A comedy without that is not a comedy at all. It was played most racily and with admirable delicacy and strength by Helen Westley. It is the first time that I have seen her in a first-rate part; and she more than justified the extremely high anticipations that I had formed of her from seeing her in roles less suited to the display of supreme histrionic genius.

“The Girl in the Coffin” was my first acquaintance with the work of Theodore Dreiser. I had always been inclined to discount what had been said of him as the only genius in America. I had a feeling that he might be a little heavy and take life too seriously. I was amazed to find in this sketch every quality of the very greatest dramatists in pure perfection, natural and harmonious, without the slightest touch of forcing. The restrained strength and vitality of the sketch are beyond all praise. He gives us heroism without bombast and pathos without slush. The play was excellently acted, and it is really invidious to make any selection for special praise, but I cannot help mentioning Kate Morgan. Hers was the most finished performance, both in appearance and manner, that I remember in this sort of part.

The pantomime, “Yum Chapab,” was excellent of its kind, and I may say that it was a better kind than most pantomimes. The Broadway showman would have spoilt the whole thing by exaggerating each of the effects until instead of a rhythmical performance one had a set of vaudeville turns. It was short and seemed shorter than it was, by reason of the excellence of the taste displayed by the people responsible for its presentation. The play ran from start to finish just a little quicker than life, as a play should do; as the Russian Ballet always does; the opposite (as in grand opera) always produces a wearisome feeling that the action drags.

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“LORD AND LADY ALGY”

There is something very charming about “Lord and Lady Algy.” The play is an old one, written more than a quarter of a century ago by that well mannered Englishman, C. S. Carton. There is absolutely nothing original in it. No single situation in the play is unique. There are no smashing scenes. Yet both Lord and Lady Algy enchant one. The curtains are singularly effective. The end of the second act, for instance, is closed with the figure of Lady Algy standing in the doorway. As she utters the word “pickles” the curtain comes down. The effect is powerful. Maxine Elliott invests the exclamation with a grandeur and dignity which reminds one of Charlotte Cushman as Lady Macbeth. William Faversham, however, captures the greater glory of the performance. No actor on the American stage to-day has developed so amazingly as he. Originally a swashbuckling matinee idol, he has become a finished artist, capable of playing the most subtle and delicate parts. It is rumored that he intends soon to play in a cycle of Bernard Shaw comedies. He would be magnificent in “Candida” as the windy preacher. And he is the ideal Caesar for “Caesar and Cleopatra,” not to mention his fitness for such parts as “Arms and the Man,” “The Doctor’s Dilemma,” “The Devil’s Disciple,” etc., provide him. As Lord Algy he authenticates a role which is essentially thin, breathing warm life into banal words and outworn situations. The entire cast is excellent. Macklyn Arbuckle is “ripping” as ever.

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“THE GYPSY TRAIL”

The American theatre entered into a new phase on the day that “Good Gracious Annabelle” was produced. Here was something new at last, something fine and unusual. It was not because of the plot, for that was not original, nor because of the setting, but because of the strange atmosphere which Clare Kummer cast like a beautiful veil over her play. Clare Kummer proved that her characters could talk the slang of the street and still be well mannered and well bred. Since that time she has written three other plays and I note only progression from the first to the last. Of course it was a foregone conclusion that she would presently create a school. Her most successful disciple is Mr. Robert Housum, whose comedy, “The Gypsy Trail,” has made a hit in New York and is likely to run at the Plymouth for months yet. His play possesses a freshness of spirit and a Kummer-like atmosphere which even the triteness of the plot cannot dissipate. For there is nothing new in the story which once more relates a young girl’s desire for romance and a young man’s fondness for the same thing. But Mr. Housum has a decided talent for comedy situations and from beginning to end “The Gypsy Trail” amuses.


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